This was the first question put to architect Sir Richard MacCormac after his lecture in Cheltenham last evening. He called it "Intentions in Architecture". Illustrated with drawings and photographs of many of his projects, he claimed to have reevaluated the past, without adopting a classical language. "Why aren't we comfortable with the word beauty?" he asked.
The invitation to speak came following the presentation of a Civic Award to Sir Richard for his work on our local Maggie's Centre (mentioned in a post last September): "It's a building about love," he said, the care he had taken over it clearly being a sign of the affection in which he had held the late (eponymous) Maggie Jencks.
Before I left, I had a chance to ask Sir Richard whether he felt any constraint in designing buildings to be energy efficient. "No," he replied: "Look at my new St John's, Oxford design: though it is nearly carbon-neutral, you can't tell from its appearance." He conjectured later, "Shall we always be able to go on using so much energy to heat our living spaces? It's only such a recent luxury - think of the days of warm indoor clothing and people huddled together on settles in front of a wood fire. Don't sheep have the right idea?"
My photograph shows Sir Richard with Mary Paterson, in whose father's name the lecture took place - it's an annual event organised by the Cheltenham Civic Society, which I suppose I ought to join.
And the answer to the question? "Yes, in its strict sense: post-modern as a word has been trashed."